I was working the polls on election day, handing people ballots and explaining how to fill them out properly. I made it my mission to come up with interesting uses for the removable tabs and entertain people for the 30 seconds that I had their captive attention. When 7 pm hit, people came in looking grim. “Did you hear about the polls?” they’d ask. “No,” I said, “but don’t tell me, I need to get through the next hour.” I guarded my polling location from news of what was happening because we still had to close – I still had to close – and needed to be able to focus without dealing with the sheer terror of reality.
I checked Twitter as I got in my Lyft back home. Shock bombarded and horror filled me as I scrolled through my timeline. I hoped the panic would vanish once the CA votes were counted. It didn’t. Slowly the new reality set in – the one where I wake up horrified and lose more of my basic human rights every day. The one where I wake up and am reminded that I was prepared for this, I saw this coming, I know what’s happening.
I grew up in the far-right evangelical conservative (Christofascist) movement; specifically, I was homeschooled and my parents were part of a subculture called Quiverfull, whose aim is to outbreed everyone for Jesus. I spent my teen years being a political activist. I was taught by every pastor I encountered that it was our job as Christians to outbreed the secularists (anyone not a far-right evangelical Protestant) and take over the government through sheer numbers. I was part of TeenPact, Generation Joshua and my local Teenage Republicans (TARS).
When the Tea Party rose in 2009, that was my culture. The Tea Party was step one. I was laying the groundwork for those elections in 2006. These people didn’t come out of the blue like it seemed. This plan, this Christofascist takeover of the US government, has been in the works for decades. When evangelical conservatism started becoming popular and more mainstream around the 1970s, the foundation was being laid for the tragedy playing out right now.
Evangelical conservatives started taking over their local republican parties and founding organizations like Operation Rescue, Homeschool Legal Defense Association, Family Research Council and Focus on the Family, just to name a few.
Michael Farris founded HSLDA in 1983 as a way to ensure that homeschooling was legal, but what he’s been striving for is the wild west. His organization is trying to keep homeschooling away from any interference so the children he trains through his sister organization, Generation Joshua, would be able to fly under the radar. Generation Joshua started in 2003, primarily catering to children homeschooled by extremely religious rightwing adults. Its purpose was to train us to fight in what the Christofascists have been calling the “Culture Wars.” It’s a loose and ambiguous term that basically means anything or anyone that doesn’t align with this very specific view of Christianity must not be allowed to continue.
How do you do that? Well, you overturn Roe v. Wade, Griswold v. Connecticut, Brown v. Board of Education and Bob Jones v. The United States. Each of these decisions currently protects reproductive rights or non-discrimination based on race. As retribution, you amend the Constitution to discriminate against queers, trans people, women and people of color. Then, you make laws legislating morality. The only way to do this is to infiltrate the government; so Generation Joshua, TeenPact and other organizations exist to indoctrinate and recruit homeschooled youth who have ample free time to participate in politics. The biggest resources for teaching civil discourse are the National Christian Forensics and Communications Association and Communicators for Christ (since renamed Institute for Cultural Communicators). Through these programs we learned how to argue effectively. As students, we were taught critical thinking skills but given only a narrow view of what was acceptable to argue for. We were, after all, being trained to take over the country for Christ, literally. We knew how to perform logical gymnastics about abortion, Christianity and any evangelical talking point you could throw at us.
When we showed up to city council, local political party meetings and tours of the Capitol we asked intelligent questions, were respectful and had a vested interest in how our local political machine ran. We impressed every government official and staff member with our questions, earnesty and demeanor. In short, we were sneaky and polite Trojan horses; we had an agenda. Yes, even as 15-year-olds. It was forcefully handed to us by the adults in our lives who had been preparing for this since before we were born.
I watched the Tea Party takeover and was surprised no one saw it coming. After all, this was part of the plan. Trump being elected is also part of the plan, although not Trump specifically; the true goal is Pence.
Christofascists have been wanting someone like Pence in the White House and, until now, didn’t have a way to get one in. They know Trump is easily manipulated and will change his mind with the wind if it makes him feel more powerful and famous. Trump couldn’t care less about policy, a fact he’s made quite obvious. The Right has given a tyrant power and fame; he will do whatever they want him to do in order to keep it. This way they can sneak Pence in on a piggyback while filling Congress with even more evangelical conservative Republicans. Compared to Trump’s abrasive and terrifying behavior, Pence seems much less threatening. This is not the case. Pence has a proven track record of legalizing discrimination and acting against women and marginalized people. Those of us who didn’t leave the far Right are being elected to federal positions or are taking over states and cities. With Pence in office, even the reasonable-seeming incumbents – who have been and are still at the mercy of the Tea Party – are growing more bold in their attempts to further the Christofascist agenda: To Take Back The Country For Christ.
This was the mantra we heard. This was our mission. This is how we were to win: Outbreed, Outvote, Outactivate. Every class, every event, every pastor or guest speaker reiterated this, choosing to risk the 501c3 status of their church to push their agenda. To take back the country for Christ, we needed to outbreed, outvote and outactivate the other side, thus saith The Lord.
Meanwhile, mainstream Democrats shake their heads in confusion and fundamentally misunderstand the meaning of grassroots organizing, which is where all of this happens. Republicans have a vast network of homeschoolers that HSLDA and others have given them to tap into as a source of free labor. Republicans in state governments are lax on homeschooling oversight because their Get Out The Vote base is made of homeschoolers thanks to Generation Joshua and Teenpact.
Homeschoolers may make up a small portion of students as a whole, but they are loud, have time and can be activated with one email blast. When HR6 was brought to Congress in 1994, homeschool families realized their power. With an alert from HSLDA, homeschool families flooded the lines of Congress demanding that they exclude private, home and religious schools from the bill. They succeeded. The reach of HSLDA to activate the homeschool community has only grown since then. We are the secret no one knew about and it’s time to come to light. Homeschoolers are a huge reason for the evangelical conservative takeover we’ve seen over the last decade or so; it would be a mistake to write them off.
Self-proclaimed constitutional lawyer Michael Farris, the founder of HSLDA, and revisionist historian David Barton have spent years twisting their interpretation of the U.S. Constitution as some kind of God-breathed document into the minds of parents and their families who will just believe what they say because they’re “Good Christians.” They don’t necessarily practice critical thought, are dissuaded from looking at the Constitution themselves without a law degree and don’t bother to read history from all angles, relying only on the whitewashed Christian versions of the Constitution and our founding.
If you’re thinking that declaring the nation a Christian one and turning into a theocracy is a ludicrous idea that has no basis in our constitution, you’d be correct. However, Christofascists have imbibed this theory and now believe it is their Christian duty to save the country from its secular ways in the name of religious freedom. In this worldview, any non-Christian (including Catholics and Jews) is doomed to eternal torture if they don’t convert. Thus, we are all going to hell in a handbasket if “good Christians” don’t save the country from the liberals who think people should just “do what they want regardless of what God says.” Their religious extremism is worse than any group they fearmonger over, but the irony is lost on them.
Evangelical conservatives are convinced that their agenda will save the country from God-ordained death. Pat Robertson and many others believe that natural disasters are sent from God specifically to punish America for letting marginalized people have rights and be alive. This motivates them to do everything in their power to “save” the country from the ungodly – even, maybe especially – if it involves stripping others of the freedoms they deem to be against God’s wishes. They don’t care if their war for Christ hurts humans they see as living wrongfully, because they are capital “R” Right and that’s what matters. Their Rightness, they believe, comes from God Himself. Their beliefs are callous and without empathy, prioritizing dogma over people. These beliefs are dangerous. Many of us who have come out as queer, trans, or even merely gone to college, have lost family because of this worldview. A single powerful person who is convinced of their own Rightness with no thought of introspection is dangerous. We now have a government full of them.
It is important to understand that they are coming at this from a place of passion and dedication. They have a fire in their bellies. While it looks like a bunch of backwoods hillbillies playing with guns to anyone outside, they are resilient and in it for the long haul. They want America to succeed, but in their America there isn’t room for anyone unlike them. There’s a reason Trump’s mantra stuck despite his deplorable behaviour. They think America was founded on conservative Protestant ideals because that’s what they’ve been fed, because that’s what aligns with their interpretation of the Bible and they will not go down without a fight.
They are scared of anything newer than the 18th century; you can’t logic the fear of change away from people. If you do no research and are instead predisposed to the belief that older is better, it’s easy to think the Puritans were good and wholesome. People wore funny hats, were conservative and hated science. Church was basically mandatory and women weren’t allowed to speak or be autonomous people. These are all comforting things for people who feel as though the world is against them because of their religion, rather than the fact that their views and actions are bigoted, racist and actively harmful to millions of other humans. You cannot be this version of evangelical and not force your beliefs on others. Failing to convert is a failure on you and your dedication to your faith. This religion is based entirely on fear; you can’t argue away a fear so intense that it hardens you to anyone unlike you or your tribe.
They will not be won over with sit-downs and respectability politics. This kind of dogma cannot be reasoned with; it must be fought against. Trying to convince them to come to the other side is a waste of time unless they’ve already started on that journey themselves. The ones in power, actively harming our lives, are past this point. We can only fight back.
The revolution has come and we are the resistance.